What Is Strabismus?

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on November 09, 2022
2 min read

With this condition, also known as crossed eyes or walleyes, your eyes aren’t always aligned. That means they don't work together to look at an object. One may look in or out, or turn up or down. It can happen all the time or only when you’re stressed out or sick.

Some children are born with it. Your child’s doctor will call this congenital strabismus. Many times, there’s no clear cause. There may be a problem with the part of their nervous system that controls eye muscles. Or they could have a tumor or eye disorder.

If it doesn’t appear until later in life, it will cause double vision. If an adult’s eyes cross without warning, they could have a serious condition like a stroke. If either one happens, see a doctor immediately.

Young children can suppress vision in a weaker eye, which lets them avoid double vision. However, that may lead to "lazy eye," a condition your doctor will refer to as amblyopia. Depth perception and peripheral vision (vision off to the side) may be affected. It can cause eyestrain and headaches. If your eyes cross when you’re older, you may start to turn your head to see in certain directions and avoid double vision.

Start treatment as soon as you can. If you don’t, the condition could continue into adulthood. Most adults with crossed eyes were born that way.

Talk to a pediatric optometrist or ophthalmologist, an eye doctor who specializes in working with kids. They may start treatment with eyeglasses or a patch to force your child to use the off-kilter eye until they see normally.

Sometimes, farsightedness is to blame. Glasses may solve the problem. The main goal is to get the problem eye working like it should before your child turns 8 years old. After that, permanent vision loss can set in.

Yes. It affects the muscles that move your child’s eye. It works best when done during childhood, but adults can have it, too

The ophthalmologist, or eye surgeon, opens the eyeball’s outer layer to reach a muscle. To strengthen the muscle, the surgeon removes a small section from one end and reattaches at the same location. This makes the muscle shorter, which turns the eye toward that side.

To weaken a muscle, the doctor moves it back or makes a partial cut across it. The eye turns away from that side.

Any double vision after surgery should go away within a few weeks as the brain adjusts to improved sight.